Coca-Cola Shifts North American Sprite Duties to Leo Burnett

Lemon-Lime Soda Brand Had Resided at BBH Since 2009

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Bartle Bogle Hegarty has lost lead creative duties for Coca-Cola's Sprite brand to Leo Burnett, which has been tasked with rolling out a major North American campaign next year.

Both shops sit under the same holding company, Publicis Groupe , though BBH is not majority owned. Publicis has a 49% stake in the micronetwork. The move comes as BBH's New York office is in production on global work for Sprite that will be rolled out later this year. It's understood that BBH Shanghai will continue to work on the brand.

According to executives familiar with the matter, the North American shift followed a quiet review that included -- in addition to BBH and Leo Burnett -- independent firm Translation. Pio Schunker, senior VP-integrated marketing at Coca-Cola, is said to be among the senior executives that decided on the shift.

A Coca-Cola spokeswoman confirmed that Leo Burnett will handle Sprite's 2013 campaign in North America but did not elaborate.

According to executives familiar with the matter, the marketer has also asked Translation to handle music-related work for the brand as part of Coca-Cola's larger Year of Music campaign and Turner Duckworth has been asked to handle outdoor and other visual-identity work. Both firms have worked with Coca-Cola before. Translation does work for Coke Zero, while Turner Duckworth has been behind a number of Coca-Cola designs, including a new Sprite logo in 2009 and Diet Coke's packaging emphasizing the "D" and the "k" in its logo last year.

Representatives for the agencies could not be immediately reached for comment.

The shifts come while the brand is performing well compared to competing beverages. While many soft-drink brands are in the midst of sales decline, Sprite is one of the few reporting growth, Ad Age noted last month.

For BBH, the loss of the North American creative comes three years after it won the business following a shootout against Wieden & Kennedy. At the time, Coca-Cola had just decided to reinvest in the brand after it languished for some time with little advertising.

BBH had led the account out of New York, though the Shanghai office, in particular, worked closely with the brand.

The agency presided over a shift to global campaigns. Most recently, BBH was behind "Uncontainable Game," a campaign launched in February and slated to run in 27 countries. The effort is the largest global campaign Sprite has ever executed.

The predecessor to that effort, "The Spark," marked Sprite's return to volume growth. Launched in 2010, that campaign marked a return to major advertising for the brand.

Though the lemon-lime soda has long been a top-10 soft drink, a series of ho-hum advertising campaigns and other Coca-Cola launches diverted attention from the brand in the 2000s. Volume fell 3% in 2008 and 4% in 2009 before rebounding to 2% in 2010, according to Beverage Digest, which said volume was largely flat at 0.1% in 2011.

Spending on the brand has declined markedly from the mid-2000s when it received nearly $30 million in measured media, according to Ad Age 's Leading National Advertisers report. Sprite spent just $9 million on measured media in the U.S. last year.

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